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[tot-er] /ˈtɒt ər/
verb (used without object)
to walk or go with faltering steps, as if from extreme weakness.
to sway or rock on the base or ground, as if about to fall:
The tower seemed to totter in the wind. The government was tottering.
to shake or tremble:
a load that tottered.
the act of tottering; an unsteady movement or gait.
Origin of totter
1150-1200; Middle English toteren to swing < ?
Related forms
totterer, noun
1. See stagger. 2. waver. 3. oscillate, quiver. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for totter
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The virtue contained in the things will cause him to totter.

  • "He air gone," she said chokingly, coming forward with a totter.

    Tess of the Storm Country

    Grace Miller White
  • There was a great shock, and the cabin seemed to totter on the brink of the chasm.

    Frank Merriwell's Bravery Burt L. Standish
  • Now he could totter off with a light heart and get a bite of lunch.

    Jill the Reckless P. G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse
  • He now is seen to reel and totter to his cabin, late at night oftentimes.

    Shadows of Shasta Joaquin Miller
  • The pillars of state of English orthography at least seemed destined to totter.

    Emmy Lou George Madden Martin
  • Taking his stick, however, he managed to totter out of the cave.

    The Rival Crusoes W.H.G. Kingston
  • I was cold and trembling; I could only totter forward and throw myself on the sofa.

    The Lifted Veil George Eliot
British Dictionary definitions for totter


verb (intransitive)
to walk or move in an unsteady manner, as from old age
to sway or shake as if about to fall
to be failing, unstable, or precarious
the act or an instance of tottering
Derived Forms
totterer, noun
tottering, adjective
totteringly, adverb
tottery, adjective
Word Origin
C12: perhaps from Old English tealtrian to waver, and Middle Dutch touteren to stagger
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for totter

c.1200, "swing to and fro," perhaps from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Norwegian totra "to quiver, shake"). Meaning "stand or walk with shaky, unsteady steps" is from c.1600. Related: Tottered; tottering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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